September 18, 2010 — January 9, 2011
In 1934, Americans grappled with an economic situation that feels all too familiar today. Against the backdrop of the Great Depression, the U.S. government created the Public Works of Art Project — the first federal government program to support the arts nationally. Artists who participated in the program, which lasted only six months from mid-December 1933 to June 1934, were encouraged to depict “the American Scene.” They painted recognizable subjects — from portraits to cityscapes and images of city life to landscapes and depictions of rural life — that reminded the public of quintessential American values such as hard work, community and optimism. These artworks, which were displayed in schools, libraries, post offices, museums and government buildings, vividly capture the realities and ideals of Depression-era America, and provided artists with a sense of pride in serving their country.
1934: A New Deal for Artists, celebrates the 75th anniversary of the Public Works of Art Project (PWAP) by drawing on the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s unparalleled collection of vibrant paintings created for the program.